Introduction to Teaching English Online

Teaching Students With Delayed Social/Emotional Development

The core features of emotional development include the ability to:

  • identify and understand one’s own feelings
  • accurately read and comprehend emotional states in others
  • manage strong emotions and their expression in a constructive manner
  • regulate one’s own behavior
  • develop empathy for others
  • establish and sustain relationships

(National Scientific Council on the Developing Child 2005)

Delays in social/emotional development can create social and learning difficulties for students in numerous ways. For instance, students experiencing delayed development can experience problems related to lower levels of self esteem, which can affect the dynamics of what should be a cooperative, sharing, positive experience (Gresham, 1982). These students can find the classroom environment a confusing and stressful place, instead of a safe, inclusive learning environment that encourages students to grow by sharing and exploring ideas.

Sadly, delayed students may be unable to form meaningful relationships with peers, bond with the teacher in any significant way or control their emotions, which in turn may lead to uncontrollable emotional, perhaps aggressive, behavior.

Fortunately, these students can be taught the skills they need in order to adapt positively in the classroom and beyond. The parents, classroom teacher, counselor or life coach all have an important role in order to “…promote children’s academic, social, and emotional learning” (Elias et. al., 1997).

One of the most important strategies a teacher can use to encourage self-control and appropriate social interaction among, and between, social/emotional delayed students is to model, model and model the desired behavior. Other ways in which to help these students is by role-playing “conflicting situations” and how they can be solved in an appropriate positive manner. Establishing and maintaining consistence in classroom rules, routines and procedures is important for all students, but is essential for students who are suffering from delays in social/emotional development.

These students will greatly benefit from creating a more effectively designed, safe and structured learning environment. As teachers, it is critical to support and nurture the needs of students who are struggling socially and emotionally by providing direct instruction in the areas of need.

Written by William Peters, Ph.D. for September 2012
Department of English Education, Hannam University, Daejeon, South Korea

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